You Have Gained A Task: Torchlight Hardcore Mode Adventures Pt2

This is Part 2 of a two-part article. To read the first, click here.

I teleport back to town, potentially to have my last look around. It feels solemn. Whatever happens I probably won’t be back here again any time soon. There’s one quest I’ve had since the very beginning of the game which I have long-considered to be glitched due to my inability to clear it. Out of interest, and by way of delaying the final fight, I look it up online. Yep, not only is that quest glitched, but I’ve accidentally cut myself out of 86% of the quests in the game as a result of not realising how the quests are delivered. As a result Simon is just a shadow of what he could have been at this point. Shit. This revelation doesn’t fill me with confidence. Of the 105 quests available I’ve done 15, and the others are now lost forever. Shit shit shit. I had been thinking the lack of quests was weird and that it was a curious design choice to give me so many useless portal scrolls. And how it was convenient that every time I went for a quest, it was always on the next floor of the dungeon. Damn my stupidity!

Too late now for morale to get the better of me. There’s nowhere left to grind, except the ‘Down the Hatch’ missions, but I’d grown worried they were becoming too difficult. I have no idea if there’s any truth to this; you can’t portal out of them so I was unwilling to find out for sure. I also had the ‘Mysterious Map’ dungeons but the first one had traps. Traps that looked like one-hit kills. I wasn’t prepared to go there, so they were out too. That left nothing else: just one fight between Simon Fightman and the glory he has earned. With a deep sense of foreboding, Simon heads back through the portal.

We get off to a terrible start with an instant NDE from the generic mob of enemies on that floor. A bad one too, of the ‘such a tiny fraction of health left that I can’t see any colour on the health bar’ variety. I slam on the quick heal and, within a fraction of a second, I shoot up to full health then back down to about 30%. No no no no no, this is bad. Comparatively, I could handle dying at the end boss. At least that’s significant. Dying at the hands of the mob in the corridor that leads to the boss would be utterly unbearable.

There are magical enemies that send out a dizzying array of projectiles that all add up to serious damage if not avoided. There are other magic users that can sap 80% of my health in one kit. Sometimes there’s two of them in the same room. If they decide to perform that big attack at the same time, that’s me done. There’re also dragons: movement-restricting, massive-persistent-fire-damage-oh-and-really-high-HP-as-well dragon-bastards. Sometimes four of them, and those other magic dudes at the same time, and surprisingly tough baby skeletons that steal mana and interrupt attacks when they swarm into you.

Simon pushes through with liberal use of the ‘heal now’ button, but I’m shaken. This isn’t the first time it’s gotten too close recently. I don’t know that I’m ready, and know I’m taking a huge risk, but I keep going. The boss fight now, and it’s almost underwhelming. I run in and destroy him. Quickly. And that’s that. The achievement pops.

Oh.

Then Phase 2 starts. We get whisked off to a new map, and the shaking of the controller heralds the arrival of the uber-boss. This one is about four times bigger. And it has minions: the same minions described above, the magic users and the other scarier magic users and the dragons and skeleton babies. The ones that have the power to kill me easily. The game decides it’s now time to bring out the ‘serious boss’ music. I agree.

At first I can’t even see the boss. All I see are dragons. The health bar is a flickering mess: one second full, the next depleted. We’re surrounded by enemies and, gradually, they are starting to wear both me and Simon out. I can’t keep hitting buttons this quickly. Nor can I keep making the right choice about which button to push. Sometime soon I will have to make a mistake. Meanwhile, Simon has run out of super healing potions. It’s onto massive healing potions now, a poor substitute. The flickering of the health bar now breaks even at around 80%. One bad hit will be enough to wipe him out.

After a brutal string of comboed-together NDEs, we’re miraculously able to break free of the first clutch of minions, finally getting back up to full health again. We run north, to the boss, but there’s another group of minions to his side, and another still between us and him. Deputy Gundo is fleeing again, for the first time since that very first boss. Coward. Both Simon and I hate him slightly for that, but he’s still one of us. During the chaos of that first minion attack he saved us at least once that I saw. He was not pointless.

It’s starting to look like a losing battle, like an unsustainable amount of continued success will be required. But it’s not over ’til it’s over. Simon can regenerate health and mana just by attacking people: I can use that to my advantage if I can trim the number of enemies down to the point where hacking and slashing won’t leave him vulnerable. It would help if Gundo wasn’t being a complete dick, but apparently that ship has sailed. Simon kites the first lot of minions whilst his shoulder robot manages to dispatch them, quicker this time because we weren’t on the back foot at the start.

We’re starting to get some optimism back. Whittle down this last group, then it’s just me and Simon versus the uber-boss. Simon will always win in a one-on-one; it’s when being overwhelmed that he’s weak. Simon charges towards the nearest member of that last pack of minions and, as he runs past, the boss reaches out one big thick paw and smacks him to death with one swing. It’s an odd moment.

There’s an element of tragedy, an element of inevitability, followed by the understanding that it genuinely is over. You always feel like you will actually get a second chance, even though the gimmick of the game is that you don’t. You never really appreciate that once it’s gone, it’s truly gone. The screen fades to grey and you are quietly informed that your character has permanently passed. Last time I checked, Simon was 28 hours old. He seemed to pass so early, and yet he and I bonded so much during our short time together. If I lost my save 28 hours into any other game I’d be pretty pissed off. But I signed up for this: Simon was always meant to die, and I suppose there’s no-one better to deliver the final blow than the final boss.

I stare at the main menu for a while. There is no ‘Continue’ option, just ‘New Character’. It only takes a few seconds to realise that I was wrong about one thing the whole time: I’m well up for another go at it. On ‘Hard’ difficulty this time. I’ll show that boss how serious it gets when I’ve got a score to settle. And from the ashes of defeat, Susan Fightman was born.

 

[Update: I’m sad to announce that Susan Fightman, widow of Simon Fightman, has died. She fought bravely but sadly accidentally clicked on a phase portal thinking it was some loot to pick up and was instantly killed by the enemies contained therein. She is survived by their faithful pet Gundo who has now on his third consecutive adventure with Simon and Susan’s son, Siegfreid Fightman. Although Susan’s death is tragic, an important lesson can be learned, namely that the Vanquisher class sucks anyway and I’m glad she’s dead. Siegfreid has skipped the ‘mortal’ gene and is not playing on Hardcore, as he wishes to see the end-game. Once he has accrued enough experience, knowledge and wisdom,  he plans to one day have a child on whom this knowledge can be imparted, and who will likely inherit their grandparent’s hardcoreness.]